Two parties in Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Barak's ruling coalition Wednesday said they would leave his government ahead of a US-hosted peace summit, possibly depriving the prime minister of the broad consensus he says he needs to make peace, reported The Associated Press.
Natan Sharansky's Israel B'Aliya party and the National Religious Party indicated that they cannot remain in Barak's coalition government as long as Barak appears ready to make the far-reaching land concessions that could clinch a deal with the Palestinians next week, said the AP.
Barak and Palestinian president Yasser Arafat will meet in a summit with US President Clinton in the United States next week to try to reach a peace accord.
The departure also leaves Barak without a legislative majority.
Sharansky's Israel B'Aliya has four seats and the National Religious Party has five.
Their departure would leave Barak with 59 seats in the 120-member Knesset, according to the agency.
"Mr. Prime Minister, we are not with you, we are against you, and that means being in the opposition," Shaul Yahalom, a National Religious Party deputy minister told Israel radio.
Sharansky announced his intention to resign earlier Wednesday, addressing a rally protesting the government's peace policies.
The former Soviet dissident, who has earned significant prestige among Israelis for the nine years he spent in a Soviet Union prison in his struggle to come to Israel, said he would reverse his decision only if Barak invited the hard-line opposition into the government, the AP added.
"The prime minister is traveling to Washington without trying to make consensus here," Sharansky said.
"I prefer to be with the majority," he added.
Leaked negotiating papers have suggested that Barak would be prepared at a summit to give up 92 percent of the West Bank, and Barak has said that 50,000 out of 200,000 Jewish settlers could be forced to choose between Palestinian rule and leaving their homes.
In addition, Barak is reportedly ready to give the Palestinians control over some suburbs of Jerusalem.
The Israeli government denied the contents of the leaks last month, but since then, some senior ministers have confirmed them, the AP said.
Barak, who was in Paris discussing peace process developments with French leaders, appeared defiant.
"Even if I stay with nine ministers and a quarter of the Knesset behind me, we will do it," Barak said earlier Wednesday, when rumors of the two parties' decision to resign first emerged, said the AP.
The nine ministers refer to those belonging to his One Israel party, which controls only 26 seats in Parliament.
Though Barak still would have enough support to govern, without legislative majority he will be vulnerable to the demands of junior coalition parties, especially those of the ultra-Orthodox Shas party.
Shas, with 17 legislators, has a history threatening to vote against peace initiatives if its demands for money to fund its network of religious schools are not met, added the AP - Albawaba.com
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